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More than half struggle to spot the signs of slavery

27 Aug 2020

In a recent poll conducted by Cambridgeshire Constabulary more than half of respondents didn’t know how to spot the signs of modern slavery.

Modern slavery is when a person or group of people are made to take part in forced labour.

It is often a hidden crime with the signs hard to spot and victims hard to identify – perhaps harder still due to being isolated as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result of the national health crisis, slavery victims could be even more hidden from view, but recent radio and billboard advertising campaigns launched by the force have highlighted how people can help.

A recent poll on the force’s Facebook page asked people if they knew how to spot the signs of modern slavery. Out of those who responded 54% of people said they weren’t sure what to look out for.

In July, police also charged two people with modern slavery, fraud and money laundering offences.

The offences are alleged to have taken place over five years between 2014 and 2019, and involved five different alleged victims.

In June, officers helped safeguard more than 200 farm workers against exploitation near Peterborough, together with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

Detective Superintendent Becky Tipping said: “With modern slavery being a hidden crime, tackling it can be challenging and that’s why we are doing all we can to highlight the signs to spot and what to look out for so people can help us.

“Slavery is often thought of as a thing of the past but in reality, it still exists here in Cambridgeshire and is anything but. We need people to speak up if something doesn’t feel quite right and report their concerns to us, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

“That one extra report could save a life. People don’t need to be sure that modern slavery is taking place or fully understand the types and definitions to report their suspicions.

“Just a few of the signs to spot are listed below but there’s a wide range of extra information on our social media and website.”

For more information on modern slavery and human trafficking, including spotting the signs, visit the force’s dedicated slavery web page.

A video on how to spot the signs is also available to watch, use and share via the force’s Facebook post here.


Spotting the signs of modern slavery

Warning signs include people:

  • not being able to come and go as they wish
  • being under 18 and providing commercial sex acts
  • working in the commercial sex industry with a pimp/manager
  • being unpaid or paid very little
  • working excessively long or unusual hours
  • not being allowed breaks or suffering restrictions at work
  • owing a large debt they are unable to pay off
  • being recruited through false promises
  • having high security measures at their place of work and/or living locations e.g. opaque windows

Modern slavery effects on mental health and behaviours

Poor mental health or abnormal behaviour is another sign of modern slavery. This can include people:

  • being fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous or paranoid
  • avoiding eye contact
  • lacking health care
  • appearing malnourished
  • showing signs of physical or sexual abuse, physical restraint or torture
  • having few or no personal possessions
  • not being in control of their own money, bank account or identification documents e.g. passport or ID
  • not being able to speak for themselves
  • not wanting to explain where they are living
  • having a lack of knowledge of where they are
  • having no sense of time
  • having inconsistencies in their story

Modern slavery sexual abuse

Signs of sexual abuse is another factor to look out for:

  • being underage and taking part in inappropriate or risky behaviour
  • having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • receiving unexplained and expensive gifts like mobile phones and clothes
  • multiple mobile phones and worrying about losing contact via mobile
  • changes in the way they dress
  • going to hotels or other unusual locations to meet friends
  • getting in/out of different cars driven by unknown people
  • being involved in abusive relationships and intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
  • not going to school and getting involved with crime, drugs or alcohol abuse
  • having mood swings

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